Students kicked off the annual drug awareness program Oct. 21 with a pep rally that set the mood for the following week of activities in which children were awarded Walmart gift cards and several balls for outdoor activities.
On Oct. 24 "Put a Hat on Drugs" began the festivities with children wearing their favorite hats. Tuesday brought children to school clad in house shoes as they "Give Drugs the Slip." Wednesday students wore ties to "Tie Up Drugs," followed by a crazy mixed up day to make students aware of the importance of "Don't Get Mixed up in Drugs."
Officers with the Sharp County Sheriff's Department, including Sheriff Mark Counts, Chief Deputy David Huffmaster, Deputy Trent Milligan with K-9 drug dog Gus and resource officer Steve Chism made a presentation to Cherokee Elementary first graders explaining the importance of saying no to drugs.
Gus demonstrated his uncanny ability to detect narcotics to the students as he quickly located two boxes in which the officers hid the drugs for the demonstration.
The week was finalized Friday when children wore their favorite team jerseys. The children wore these to "Team Up Against Drugs." Throughout the week, students also participated in various grade level appropriate activities including a poster and essay contest.
Each day during lunch, Assistant Principal Meg Barnes presented prizes to numerous children.
Barnes said, "The class with the best essays all received gift cards from Walmart. Because there were so many great essays, we went back to Walmart and got more cards." The winning essay was submitted by Halli Prescott, a third grader in Mrs. Andrea Davis' class. Her essay is printed in its entirety in this edition at right.
Cherokee Village Health Solutions, a committee formed by Cherokee Village Mayor Lloyd Hefley, supported the Red Ribbon Week by providing students with various balls to promote physical activity.
Pam Rowland, Chairwoman of the Cherokee Health Solutions committee made the presentation to the students.
The events that led to the campaign began 26 years ago after the kidnapping, torture and brutal murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in 1985. Agent Camarena had been working undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico for over four years. His efforts led to a tip that resulted in the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The successful eradication of this and other drug production operations angered leaders of several drug cartels who sought revenge. As a result, they murdered key informants and then, on Feb. 7, 1985, they kidnapped Agent Camarena and his pilot, Captain Alfredo Zavala-Avelar.
After their kidnapping, the DEA launched a massive investigation. The agents found local Mexican law enforcement uncooperative. DEA Administrator Jack Lawn and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese sought greater support from Mexican officials including the Mexican Attorney General, but to no avail. Orders from U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab effectively closed the US/Mexico border for days ,putting pressure on the Mexican government to assist.
Soon, representatives of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP) presented a tip to DEA Agents claiming that Agent Camarena had been mistakenly kidnapped by a man and his three sons. The MFJP informed the agents that a raid of the man's ranch in Angostura would take place the following morning and invited them to come.
However, the MFJP raided the ranch before DEA agents arrived. During the raid, they shot and killed five individuals. Not long after, a passerby discovered the bodies of both Agent Camarena and Captain Zavala-Avelar by the side of the road not far from the ranch.
The DEA's investigation revealed that Agent Camarena had been tortured extensively before he was murdered. Audiotapes of the torture showed that medical doctors actually kept Agent Camarena alive in order to continue the interrogation. Evidence collected revealed that both men were initially buried in one location and then moved to the ranch where they were found.
The dramatic events that followed Camarena's disappearance were chronicled in national media, drawing international attention to the dark world of drug trafficking, including how far traffickers would go to maintain power and control.
In Camarena's home town, Calexico, Calif., the public outpouring of support turned into an organized community response in which citizens wore red ribbons in support of the agent. The residents then became a voice for prevention in order to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and drug use in America.
The following year, the California State PTA adopted the Red Ribbon Week campaign, which began to be observed in local school systems, followed by statewide and then national observations of the campaign. In 1988, Red Ribbon Week was finally recognized nationally by President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan, who served as the first honorary chairs.
Today, Red Ribbon Week brings millions of people together to raise awareness regarding the need for alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention, early intervention, and treatment services.
Local school systems participate in the campaign annually during the last week in October with various activities to involve students, as well as educate them on the dangers of drugs and their usage.
Red Ribbon Week is the largest, most visible prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States.